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The Iron Heel

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  8,846 ratings  ·  701 reviews
A dystopian novel about the terrible oppressions of an American oligarchy at the beginning of the Twentieth Century, and the struggles of a socialist revolutionary movement.
Audiobook, 9 pages
Published July 2010 by Librivox (first published 1908)
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Average rating 3.77  · 
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 ·  8,846 ratings  ·  701 reviews

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Jul 25, 2012 rated it liked it
The Iron Heel by Jack London is Upton Sinclair meets Wolf Larson.

Described by many as the first of the modern dystopian novels, this one takes a strongly socialist stance, clearly espousing this ideology in lengthy diatribes. While reading this work I frequently compared to Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, but in contrast. Both novels ambitiously seek a prophetic tone, but both ultimately wind up as monological propaganda with straw man arguments propped up in opposition.

The Iron Heel does have the
May 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition


This is an important book. It's so important that the editors of the German Wiktionary site decided to use a quote from the book for the entry IMPORTANT. I think I never used the phrase must read for a book in any one of my reviews. And I'm still not doing it here. But I'd answer YES! if you ask “Should I read this book?”

Those of you who read other works by Jack London and think that this is some adventure story set in Alaska or on a ship at sea or something? For
Oct 05, 2012 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: socialist pigs
Shelves: 2013
Jack London wrote a dystopia! Did you know that? I didn't! It is terrible.

The first 75% is pure political screed. And not very well scrode, either; it's hysterically and ineptly scridden. Jack London was a socialist, and this book makes socialism look bad through its sheer incompetence. (By the way, that Lincoln quote didn't happen.) The fact that I happen to agree with the basic ideas here doesn't make the book any less boring.

When the plot finally does kick in, it's...well, who cares what it i
James Barker
My father loved Jack London. When I was a child, in his library, the little room under the stairs, there were faded copies of 'White Fang' and 'Call of the Wild' that had both seen better days. I wish Dad had got beyond the boy's own adventure output that made London famous; I think it would have helped to explain some things that troubled him throughout his life.

For 'The Iron Heel' is a fine socialist text but it is not just this. Certainly the book influenced George Orwell and a stream of thou
A.J. Howard
The Iron Heel is said to have been a great influence on later dystopian fiction, but London's book is completely lacking the subtlety and skill of Orwell, Huxley, or Burgess. Where the latter authors tell carefully crafted fables, London relies on heavy handed, exhausting, and apparently plagiarized polemics. Although they are almost ideological antonyms, this book is much more akin to Rand's Atlas Shrugged than Orwell's 1984. At least Rand's tome managed to engage the reader before embarking on ...more
Dec 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
In the Iron Heel London lays out something right in step with reality, past present and almost certainly the future. Jack London was a guy that had hobnobbed and interacted with the well to do (he was even a member of Bohemian Grove) but he had also seen the hard side of life, working on fishing boats and in various brutal exploitive labor jobs, doing time in jail, etc. So he had an insight that not many people have.

In this work he really lays out through fictional characters how many segments
Sidharth Vardhan
It would be going too far to say that it does for capitalism what 1984 does for communusm but it is the closest a book I have read has gone to deserve that claim. Not very typical work of Jack London, the first part of the book introspective rather than full of action and is quite intellectual. The first half in particular sees protagonists breaking the arguments of philooshers, religion and capitalism as he takes away the curtain that hides the ugliness of capitalists from those enjoying their ...more
Wee Lassie
Mar 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
So...apparently Jack London was a witch who could see into the future. A well written and thoughtful book, who's anti capatilist message is really needed in our times of terribleness. But I'll be honest, it was so close to reality I found it a little depressing. ...more
Daniel Villines
Apr 28, 2009 rated it liked it
To be fair, The Iron Heel is a novel comprised of pro-Socialism propaganda, but it’s still filled with truth because London had so much truth to work with. London did not need to invent stories of workers losing their limbs while working for subsistence wages. London did not need to invent stories of children working for pennies in factories where they rarely enjoyed the light of day. He did not need to create Capitalists that profited from all this and professed that they were the source of joy ...more
Mike (the Paladin)
Feb 15, 2011 rated it did not like it
This book illustrates that just because you like some of a writers work it doesn't mean you'll like it all.

What we have here is an attempt at selling an ideology inside a sort of doomed romance story...and take that as I wrote it. Not only is the romance doomed, so is the story. Any story in this volume (which I skimmed as an attempt to read London's tortured attempt to make universal socialism logical is painful at best) Any story in this book (and there isn't much) is completely overwhelmed b
Jan 11, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
'The Iron Heel' is an interestingly inconsistent book, not so much in ideology as in style. It is presented as a hagiography of an unsuccessful revolutionary, written by his wife. The first few chapters include her slightly tiresome habit of breathlessly praising everything he does or says. The account becomes more compelling when the wife herself becomes an active revolutionary and is separated from her husband. At this point, though, events very violent and the book culminates in the horrible ...more
Nov 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Wow....


OK, ok....First off...this is not your regular Jack London stuff, hell I didn't even know he was a socialist till reading this.

This is a dystopian novel, an odd book, supposedly a manuscript dug up around the year 2700, this manuscript chronicles events that take place in the early 20th century as capitalism develops into a sort of oligarchy.

The reader is given footnotes by a historian from 2700 who is trying to explain the strangeness of some of our history to his contemporaries
Thom Swennes
Sep 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: I would recommend it to every thinking and feeling person.
Revolutionary! I have read some of Jack London’s works but The Iron Heel came as a complete surprise. Published in 1908, it proved both intuitive and fatalistic. Written before the World War I and the Russian Revolution, it suggested their passing. The book is written as a manuscript written around the start of World War I and found hundreds of years later. The document describes the coming revolution and it inevitability. The industrial revolution and capitalism has run amuck and the oppressed ...more
Alfred Searls
May 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
Now, before we go on, here’s a suggestion; check your personal political views in at the door. In ‘The Iron Heel’ Jack London openly displays his early twentieth century socialist leanings but the book itself is much more than the sum of its political and economic parts. Don’t believe me? Well try this for size - “Under the oligarchs will flourish, not a priest class, but an artist class.”

A bold assertion I think you’ll agree, and one which few writers have ever chosen to ascribe to an imaginary
Chris Dietzel
May 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Take the journal style of Atwood's 'The Handmaid's Tale', the social outrage found in Orwell's nonfiction writing, and Ayn Rand's use of long-running dialogue to get across political ideology and you have 'The Iron Heel.' First published in 1907, it's heard to imagine this book wasn't influential to each of those authors. It's also hard to believe I didn't even know about the book until another GR member referred me to it.

The Oligarchy in 'The Iron Heel' aims to crush its citizens, just as Ocea
Dec 28, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
George Orwell commented that the prophecies of this book turned out to be more true than either The Shape of Things To Come or Brave New World. He was correct. It was also more prophetic than 1984. In the end, 1984 is a reduction of philosophical ideas into a manual of power. Even if Oceania never exists, it will always be, like a Platonic idea, out there as a model for a way to run the world.

The Iron Heel, on the other hand, could almost have been written in 2007 instead of 1907.

As a political
Aug 30, 2013 rated it did not like it
It’s like reading a left-wing Ayn Rand and in no way is that a good thing. As much as I take issue with London’s politics, I’m even more disappointed with the poor writing. I love Martin Eden and I enjoy his adventure stories, but this is truly terrible. Wooden characters, ridiculous dialogue, a terrible plot... this is one of only three books that I hurled across the room after I finished reading because I was so disgusted. I’m baffled that it has any good reviews. Every second spent reading th ...more
May 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a major piece of dystopian fiction. I am surprised it is not as well known as London's other works.

I would suggest reading this along with Orwell's "Animal Farm".
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Jul 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jenny (Reading Envy) by: Jesse from SFF Audio
“We are all caught up in the wheels and cogs of the industrial machine.”

When this book was selected for an SFF Audio Readalong discussion (link at bottom of post), I was surprised I hadn't heard of it in all my reading of dystopias and disasters. Jack London, an ardent socialist, published this in 1907 as a warning for the Oligarchy that was bound to take control if the proletariat didn't rise up.

The story itself is told through the diary of Avis Everhard, telling the story of the revolutionary
Brian Napoletano
Jan 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
It is not difficult to imagine why this work does not share the same recognition as White Fang or The Call of the Wild. London, through the character of Ernest Everhard, makes no apologies for his relentlessly honest assessment of contemporary capitalism and the society it is producing. In the story, the "Iron Heel" of the title is a title commonly applied to the capitalist "Oligarchy" that rises out of the numerous contradictions in capitalist society that were so starkly visible in the early t ...more
May 07, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. An interesting, thought provoking read about capitalism and socialism. The first half of the book is an unsubtle diatribe on the problems with capitalism in the USA in the early 1900s. The second half of the book is a dystopian story of political events. Firstly we learn how the wealthy capitalists institute a brutal repressive regime in order to preserve their power. This capitalist oppression leads to the workers collectively fighting against the oppressive 'oligarchy' (capitalists) ...more
Feb 05, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jon by: KC Pub Lib Altered States Winter 2011
Dystopian, or very dated alternate history, which drowned me in Marxism and the evils of capitalism as viewed through the lens of the very early 20th century. My perspective, a century later, shows many of these ills have been legislatively remedied. Not much of a story or plot, no real character growth; mostly essay or lecture on socialism, topped off with stomping feet, neo-terrorism and the beginnings of a non-nuclear Cold War.
My old 1970ish paperback has an introduction by Howard Zinn that's very well done. My only prior reading of Zinn was his A People's History of the United States: 1492-Present by Howard Zinn. I don't care for him too much as a historian due to his bias, but he is readable. He seems to like "Iron Heel" a lot, too.

My first impression was a weird one. It kind of reminds me of Atlas Shrugged for some reason. I don't think London & Rand could be further apart politically, though. Every comparison I ma
Jose Moa
Dec 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jack London (1876-1940) is a polifacetic author and yet lately is mostly known by his tales in Alaska in the gold rush,some very good as To Build a Fire or Law of Life,tales of south seas and considered as young adult novels writter, as The Call of the Wild,he also have witten serious novels as for example perhaps the first postapocalliptic novel The Scarlet Fever, almost at the level of the famous The Earth Abides,and this one The Iron Heel.

The Iron Heel is a distopian utopian socialist novel,t
Jul 29, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: z-fiction
This was probably the first overtly anti-Liberal (economics) pro-Socialist writing I read, so I was enthralled as I imagine any remotely-decent person would be.
Now looking back, I acknowledge the blunt delivery and clumsy story-line. Still, I'd pick this over the heap of "literary masterpieces" with garbage ideologies.
Dec 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: london
"at first, this earth, a stage so gloomed with woe you almost sicken at the shifting of the scenes. and yet be patient. our playwright may show in some fifth act what this wild drama means."

1 my eagle
2 challenges
3 johnson's arm
4 slaves of the machine
5 the philomaths
6 adumbrations
7 the bishop's vision
8 the machine breakers
9 the mathematics of a dream
10 the vortex
11 the great adventure
12 the bishop
13 the general strike
14 the beginning of the end
15 last days
16 the end
17 the scarlet l
Jun 15, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’ve often wondered if Jack London was a stranded time traveler from a parallel dystopian future and this book proves it. The format is surprisingly similar to “The Handmaids Tale” which of course was written 80 years after this book.
The plot involves the Oligarchy (1%ers vs. Socalists) modern Social Democrats come to mind. Some interesting predictions are WWl vs. Germany (though workers striking in both countries stop it). Instead of the Japanese attacking Pearl Harbor the Germans launch a sur
An outline of Trump Plan No. 2 (No. 1 is Lewis’ It Can’t Happen Here).

Presented as a found manuscript by a faux editor, “seven centuries” after the events it describes (2), this text describes fascistic irruption as “a step aside, or a step backward, to the social tyrannies that made the early world a hell, but that were as necessary as the Iron Heel was unnecessary” (3). That is, “capitalism, rotten-ripe, sent forth that monstrous offshoot, the Oligarchy” (4).

The text, written in 1908, has som
Aug 29, 2015 rated it liked it
A dystopian novel, the precursor to Orwell’s 1984, that has echoes of today’s ascendance of the “One Percent,” or the Oligarchy as London called it during his day.

The device used to convey the story is an interesting one: a historical record kept by the wife, Avis Everhard, of the founder of the Revolution, Ernest Everhard, of an uprising that raged against the Oligarchy for 300 years before Socialism finally took hold in the form of the Brotherhood of Man (BOM); this manuscript has been found 7
Jul 18, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed, wwend-2015
This book, The Iron Heel, is a manuscript that has been discovered 7 centuries into the future, 300 hundred years in the Christian era and 400 years in the era of the Brotherhood of Man. The manuscript was written by Avis Everhard. The driving force is her husband, Ernest Everhard. Everhard is a tireless socialist activist and revolutionary. He preaches the gospel in favor of Labor vs. Capital. Even when he addresses a group of capitalists, they are unable to refute his arguments. The first thir ...more
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Jack London was an American novelist, journalist, and social activist. He was also an innovator in the genre that would later become known as science fiction.

His most famous works include The Call of the Wild and White Fang, both set in the Klondike Gold Rush, as well as the short stories "To Build a Fire", "An Odyssey of the North", and "Love of Life". He also wrote about the South Pacific in sto

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